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Warship Wednesday5th June 2024

HMS HERMIONE – The Last Surface Ship Refit

HMS Hermione F58 – The Last Surface Ship Refit Undertaken at Chatham Royal Dockyard

In the final years of Chatham Dockyard, HMS HERMIONE was a prominent figure at the site.

The last edition of the Chatham Dockyard newspaper, The Periscope June 1983, carried the following headline on page 5:
“The end of an era as Hermione goes – As the ship slips out into the river it will be a very emotional moment for those on board and those left behind.”

When HMS HERMIONE arrived at Chatham in August 1979, the Periscope Front Page headline read:
“Dispute Knocks Yard Refits For-Six.”

Mothballed Refit

HMS HERMIONE had arrived at Chatham for the Third Major Refit (modernisation refit) of a Leander class frigate, to be undertaken at Chatham. But, instead of starting her refit in No 9 dock, she was de-stored in No 3 basin and ‘mothballed’ for four months. After a whole year’s planning for the refit at Chatham, an announcement was made a few days before her arrival that the refit had been switched to Devonport Dockyard.

The dispute in question was a campaign of industrial action by IPCS and AGSRO members at Chatham in support of a national pay claim. Since June 1979 there had been a “withdrawal of goodwill”, a ban on overtime and random half-day stoppages in different departments. The Production Manager stated, “The effect on the Yard’s programme had been little short of disastrous.”

After four months of being“mothballed” the refit was put back into Chatham’s programme; the refit commenced in January 1980.

“Last One Best One”

HERMIONE underwent a Batch 3 (GWS 25 Sea Wolf) conversion, a much bigger work package than the two previous Leander conversions at Chatham – HMS AURORA Batch 1 (Ikara) and HMS MINERVA Batch 2 (Exocet). The work package was estimated to be 46,000 man-weeks, with 450 men working at peak periods on the frigate either, in the workshops or actually on the ship.

The fitting of a Sea Wolf anti-aircraft / anti-missile system was a “first” for Chatham, the main machinery was given a “normal refit”. Almost all the rest of the ship was stripped out and replaced, and there were more structural alterations made than the other two Leander conversions. The hangar and flight deck were enlarged to take the then-advanced, Lynx helicopter.

During the refit, the ship endured industrial disputes, a financial moratorium on expenditure, almost continuous low priority in the dockyard programme, the effects of the yard closure (announced in 1981) and the effects of the Falkland crisis.

Closure Looms

With the announcement of the closure of Chatham, January 20th 1983 was the target date set for the completion of the refit, all production work at Chatham was due to end on 30th June 1983. Sea trials were conducted after HERMIONE left Chatham.

HMS HERMIONE left Chatham on 21st June 1983 escorted down the river Medway by the Flag Officer Medway, Rear Admiral W Higgins. HERMIONE proceeded to Devonport Dockyard to be “finished off”, (mid-July to January 1984).

Brian Sparshatt had been the refit Project Manager said:

“Thank you to the many people who have pulled their weight in the long and often bitter struggle, I hope the future brings you all you deserve. The dockyard isn’t going to survive, but the people in it will”.

HMS HERMIONE was first commissioned into the Royal Navy in July 1969, she was sold to Samsung, Hong Kong on 9th September 1997 for breaking up.

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